Federal Child Pornography Charges
How our Maryland Criminal Defense Attorneys Can Help Your Complex Case
Federal child pornography cases are easy pickings for federal law enforcement to investigate and prove a case. Illegal images or video are usually traced back to the user via a bit torrent program, and eventually, discover the IP address and physical address of the user. Law enforcement will try and locate illegal images or video on computers. They are trying to build a case against you and they want to show that you have actual or constructive possession of the electronic device, such as a computer on the premises.
Many agencies will do a cursory check of the computer to see if they can find any type of illegal contraband. Many times the electronic devices are taken into custody. Those electronic devices are sent to a lab where they will be searched to determine if there is any illegal content, to see whether or not there are any illegal images or video, and attempt to determine the search terms that were used. They also determine the programs used and how they were used.
Federal law enforcement agencies, such as the FBI, ICE, Secret Service, Postal Service, Homeland Security, and others, are extremely aggressive in hunting down child pornography on the internet and attempting to find out who are the people at the very end the chain. If you were confronted by law enforcement on the federal or state level that you declare your desire for an attorney before you speak. Many times, your confession and what you say could be the nail in the proverbial coffin after an arrest.
- 18 U.S.C. Sec. 2251– Sexual Exploitation of Children
(Production of child pornography)
- 18 U.S.C. Sec. 2251A -Selling and Buying of Children
- 18 U.S.C. Sec. 2252– Certain activities relating to material involving the sexual exploitation of minors (Possession, distribution and receipt of child pornography)
- 18 U.S.C. Sec. 2252A– Certain activities relating to material constituting or containing child pornography
- 18 U.S.C. Sec. 2260– Production of sexually explicit depictions of a minor for importation into the United States
Manufacturing, Distribution & Receipt all carry with it MANDATORY federal jail sentences from 5 years to 15 years for a FIRST OFFENSE. The federal sentencing guidelines for Possession are strict but do not carry with it mandatory jail time.
It is imperative that you contact my office ASAP before you speak to a detective or agent. If you have already done so, call quickly to obtain an assessment and way to fix the situation.
Mandatory Sex Registration
If you’ve been convicted of a child pornography-related crime (federal or state),in almost every scenario you will be required to register. There is no Federal agency that registers individuals. The federal government uses state registries even in Federal cases. There are many state web sites and even Federal web sites such as the National Sex offender Public Website which links to all 50 states including DC.
Having an experienced Maryland federal child pornography lawyer on your side can ensure no stone in your defense is left unturned. Call the Law Offices of James E. Crawford, Jr. & Associates at (443) 709-9999 for representation you can trust. Serving Baltimore, Annapolis, Bel Air, and the rest of Maryland.
Difference Between Federal & State Child Pornography Charges
The difference between federal prosecutions and state prosecutions are the penalties. The Department of Justice, who primarily prosecutes these cases, usually requests years in jail as a result of simple possession. If you’re being prosecuted for distribution or receipt of child pornography, there is a mandatory sentence of 5 years, which can sometimes be as high as 20 years, for a first-time offense. If the defendant had a prior offense, it could result up to 40 years.
Federal law strictly prohibits images containing sexual depictions of minors under the age of 18 years:
- Advertising of images
Even sexual images or artificial depictions may qualify as a violation of federal law. Many times, cases start out on the state level and the state prosecutor will ask the federal government to get involved to prosecute. A prosecutor may make a jail term offer to a defendant or a lawyer will try to send it to the Department of Justice where there may be a federal mandatory sentence of five years. That is why you need a very experienced criminal defense attorney to navigate the situation and work to secure your best possible outcome.
The basic elements that a federal prosecutor must prove against you in any federal child pornography case are:
- You knowingly possessed, distributed and/or received said contraband;
- What you possessed are images or video;
- That the image or video contains child pornography; and
- The image or video affected interstate commerce or was made by items that moved in interstate commerce.
If the federal government can prove the above elements a judge will instruct the jury to find the defendant guilty of the charges. This is why it is important for you to contact the Law Offices of James E. Crawford, Jr. & Associates prior to discussing your case with anyone.
How Can You Defend a Federal Child Pornography Case?
The first thing you should do if you are being investigated or charged with federal child pornography violations is to contact a criminal defense attorney immediately. These cases can take months to proceed and there may be negotiations that could occur with the federal prosecutor.
When analyzing a child pornography case, the first thing a good Maryland federal criminal defense lawyer should do is to determine whether or not there are any Fourth Amendment issues that need to be addressed. This involves search and seizure, starting with the search warrant and the actual serving of the warrant on the defendant. If law enforcement acted prematurely or obtained the warrant improperly based upon insufficient evidence or exceeded their ability under the warrant, then the Fourth Amendment search and seizure laws may apply and may be beneficial to the defendant regarding the suppression of evidence.
Normally, law enforcement investigates these cases in two distinct methods:
- Peer to peer (P2P) network where individuals share files from computer to computer
- Commercial child pornography websites where images and video are available for download
There are many other methodologies that law enforcement uses especially with the advent of other technology and Internet phone use. Apps, the dark web, and other means are constantly being created in order to try and get to the source of child pornography. A pre-indictment investigation may limit or prevent the government from proceeding. It is extremely important that a defendant take these steps immediately.
There may be many defenses possible that would put you in a situation where the government could not prove their case against you. Each situation is different and requires an experienced attorney to look at the situation and advise you very carefully. The best thing a suspect can do is to contact an experienced child pornography attorney immediately before agents or other law enforcement have sat down and extracted information from you. There still may be critical defenses you may exert in order to protect yourself.
Possession & Distribution of Federal Child Pornography
One of the biggest issues the government has to prove is that you possessed the illegal contraband either in an actual fashion or in a constructive manner. Law enforcement’s main focus is to extract a confession showing that you own the electronic device in question and that others do not have access to it. The entire idea is to put you in a situation where a jury would believe that you had access and only you had the ability to download, receive, distribute or view said contraband. In other words, you had control of what occurred and made it happen. If agents go to your home with multiple people at the home and there is an electronic device used by many others, they may not able to show that you, in fact, possessed said contraband.
Another big issue in these situations is whether or not you simply viewed said images, attempted to save said images, or intended to actually receive said images. The government must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that it was you and no one else that completed these acts. Search terms, viewing of the contraband, and even a discussion by the agents of masturbation while viewing said contraband comes in apply.
This issue usually occurs with peer to peer (P2P) networks where suspects will argue that they never knew the images could be shared with other individuals using the same network. Federal law leans in the direction that if an individual has an understanding of how a computer works and even if they are not actively, purposely, or intentionally distributing files, they may be guilty of the statute through passive intent because they should have known or most likely did know that others could view these images on their hard drive via the peer to peer. There are federal cases, however, indicating that the government must show that the defendant demonstrates some overt, more specifically, something that would actually cause the sending of the image to be delivered. Again, each case is different and must be analyzed by a skilled Maryland criminal defense lawyer.
Use of Experts & Technology in Child Pornography Cases
Many individuals will assert that they never intended to download or view the pornography in question. Polygraphs and stress test technology may be beneficial to the defendant. On most occasions, however, they are not unless your criminal defense attorney sets it up during an investigation. Other technology used by experts may be extremely beneficial in convincing the government to drop their case.
When a suspect accidentally receives these images and deletes them, federal law is divided regarding whether or not there is intent to receive illegal contraband. All who use computers on a daily basis realized that sometimes when we search the Internet intrusions pop up on our screen and we don’t even understand how or why that occurs. That is one of the reasons why we believe in these situations computer experts are extremely important to show whether or not an individual intended to download these images. The bottom line is that when you search for certain information it can be shown through the use of search terms and activity.
What Are the Federal Sentencing Penalties?
Congress created federal sentencing guidelines for any and all federal crimes. Recently, the Supreme Court determined that the guidelines Congress created were not mandatorily imposed. Judges are free to deviate from the guidelines for a good cause which puts the defendant in a much more advantages situation.
Possession of child pornography does not have any mandatory sentence. The maximum statutory years in jail is 10 years unless there is a prior conviction which means it could be raised to 20 years.
Transporting, receipt, distribution, production, or possession with intent to distribute or sell child pornography, has a mandatory minimum five-year federal penitentiary sentence. The statutory maximum penalty is 20 years. For a second offense, the minimum mandatory is 15 years and the statutory penalty is up to 40 years.
Because most of these cases developed from peer to peer (P2P) or sting operations either through a computer or some other electronic device, when the federal government charges a suspect they will usually charge them with several counts. They do this because they want to use the higher charges as a negotiation tool. If you are charged with receipt or manufacturing, the Department of Justice most likely believes they can show you actually created the images.
Aggressive Criminal Defense Lawyer on Your Side
Many prosecutors attempt to show all the bad things a defendant allegedly did. They attempt to show that the defendant had thousands of images of child pornography and therefore argue they have a major problem and should be penalized accordingly. However, experts have shown that many times these images end up on a computer and are not even viewed. The picture the government paints against the defendant is nowhere near accurate.
If you are facing child pornography charges anywhere in the state of Maryland, including Baltimore, Bel Air, Annapolis, and Rockville, call (443) 709-9999 right away. The Law Offices of James E. Crawford, Jr. & Associates have over 30 years of experience defending clients against tough claims.